The Marian has a history which dates back 130 years. It was initially built as a family mansion and then became an all-girls boarding house. I loved the black and white theme throughout the hotel and the original timber floors made from thick belian, ironwood of Borneo. I even went in search of trapdoors and found them!
The pool area can be found just after the pepper tree in the hotel’s lovely gardens. Surrounded by lush greenery, it is a great place for whiling away an afternoon or doing early morning laps. From the back deck of the original building you can see a nearby bishop’s residence, aptly named, The Bishop’s House. This house was built in 1849, and is heritage-listed.
I stayed in a room in the Chapel Wing with a sweet little terrace and vintage furniture. I was intrigued by the front door and found out it had been salvaged from a torn down bungalow built in the 1950s for senior government officers, along with some windows seen throughout the hotel. The owner, Rosemarie, is an antique collector. She told me it was a real labour of love to restore the place – a major 5-year project. She had supervised every stage and was on-site to check the finer details. The devil is in the detail as they say, and this fine restoration is a real tribute to Rosemarie’s passion for design which reflects history and authenticity, at the same time as retaining comfort and hominess.
There are 40 rooms in the Marian to suit every budget, from the pool facing rooms, standard rooms, family rooms, bunk-bed style rooms to a 2-bedroom apartment. The wings are named after former St Mary Boarding House matrons and other women who played significant roles in the institution. Be sure to check out the black and white photos from that period on the wall near the wide, sweeping internal wooden staircase.
Located only a 2-minute walk to historic Carpenter Street, the hotel is in the heart of the Old Town of Kuching. One of the best things about staying there at The Marian is the dining experience. The Granary Kitchen and Bar which is located on the street level was once a warehouse and granary but has also been fully restored. You will find an extensive offering of Mediterranean and European dishes, delicious homemade cakes and desserts. They even have a hearty gluten free burger, plus some of the best cocktails in Kuching. Check out the beer garden at the back too. There is live music there on the weekends and I attended the regular Tuesday quiz night, a first time for me. It was a real hoot.
Do make time to look in the Marian Gift Gallery, which is bursting with exclusive local handmade souvenirs of Sarawak including exquisite arts and crafts, unusual clothing, artisanal jewellery, and many retro collectibles. Rosemarie believes in supporting the local traditional women’s longhouse weaving community and has acquired a wide range of their work. She expertly selects all the pieces for sale, including several upcycle products.
This is a great hotel to stay when exploring the Old Town of Kuching. There is plenty of choice in cafes and eateries, some lovely Chinese temples, and the waterfront only one block away. You will enjoy wandering around the historic Chinese shophouses surrounding the hotel before returning home to your own very special piece of history at the Marian.
Story by Stephanie Brookes
David Metcalf runs photo workshops in Bali and cultural photography tours in Bali, Borneo, Vietnam, Odisha India and Myanmar.